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Navy's Keenan Reynolds Staking His Claim For Heisman Trophy

October 15, 2015

On Navy's first play from scrimmage against rival Air Force Oct. 3, senior quarterback Keenan Reynolds found a small seam in the Falcons' defensive line and scampered 54 yards to set up the Midshipmen's first touchdown.

Reynolds would eventually amass 183 yards on the ground and throw for a touchdown during Navy's 33-11 victory. Afterward, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun was asked whether Reynolds is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. 

"I think that's a great question," Calhoun said.

Reynolds, who hails from Antioch, Tenn., has already etched his name in the history books. He holds the NCAA record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback and the most by anyone in Navy history. 

Navy Football 2015: Keenan Reynolds (vs. ECU, arm out)
Photo Credit: Ed Sheahin/PressBox

Reynolds also has the Midshipmen off to one of their best starts in program history. Navy has its sights set on an American Athletic Conference championship during its inaugural season in the league.

Reynolds often deflects questions about his personal accomplishments. Instead, he consistently focuses on the team goals. His motto is "1-0," which means the team is only as good as the last game.

"I'm just trying to go out and be successful," said Reynolds, who is listed at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds. "I feel like anything is possible, and I can achieve anything. I'm well aware of what I can break this year, but like I said, that's not 100 percent the main focus for me."

When mulling Reynolds' Heisman candidacy, Calhoun referenced Michael "Dee" Dowis, the former Air Force quarterback who played from 1986-89. Dowis was the last player from one of the service academies to make a legitimate run at the Heisman Trophy, finishing sixth in the voting in 1989. Houston quarterback Andre Ware took home the honors that season after throwing for 4,699 yards and 46 touchdowns.

At the time, Dowis set a career record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 3,612 yards and was the fifth player in Division I history to both pass and run for 1,000 yards. He was named an honorable mention All-America. 

Reynolds' career numbers on the ground are even better, and he will likely eclipse more than 4,000 rushing yards for his career, in addition to several touchdown records. 

"He's a talented player," Calhoun said of Reynolds. "I think the other thing is he's not afraid to use is his physicality."

As far as his Heisman potential, Reynolds is not exactly flying under the radar.

Prior to the season, Reynolds was one of 30 players named to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list. The award is presented annually to the nation's top college quarterback based on "character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities and athletic accomplishments." 

Former Navy quarterback Roger Staubach was the last player from one of the service academies to win the Heisman Trophy when he took home the award in 1963. Halfback Joe Bellino is the only other Navy player to win the Heisman (1960).

It's been a steady progression for Reynolds since his freshman year in 2012, when he became the first Navy quarterback to win his first four career starts since senior Bob Powers in 1979. Reynolds also became the first freshman to start at quarterback for Navy since Jim Kubiak started five games in 1991.

Reynolds' sophomore season was even better, as he began to garner national attention. That year, Reynolds scored 31 rushing touchdowns, the most by a quarterback in NCAA history for a season and the most by a Navy player in school history. He also became the fourth player in NCAA history to rush for 30 or more touchdowns during a season.

Last season, he finished with 23 rushing touchdowns -- fifth most in the country and the most by a quarterback -- despite missing two games due to injury. Reynolds also averaged 12.5 points per game in 2014, the third-best scoring average in the country.

That has led to a senior year during which he can take the Midshipmen to entirely new levels under head coach Ken Niumatalolo. With the victory against Air Force, Reynolds improved to a 6-1 mark during service academy games. The final game of that series is against Army Dec. 12. 

"He's so business-like and gets things done," Niumatalolo said. "There are so many things that happen over the course of the game, and he makes it look easy. We're going to be a hard team to defend with Keenan because he has seen everything."

The only aspect of Reynolds' game that might hold him back from major awards is his unselfishness. When Colgate focused on shutting him down during the season opener Sept. 5, Reynolds simply handed the ball off to his fullbacks, who combined for 192 of the team's 317 rushing yards on 21 carries with four touchdowns.

His teammates respond to his leadership, and Reynolds credited Niumatalolo with helping him serve as a role model.

"The way he is as a leader has definitely rubbed off on me," Reynolds said of Niumatalolo. "Some of the things he's done for us, for his people, are things I want to take into my own leadership experience, being a captain, being an officer in the Navy. The things that he does, [it] just defines what a good leader is supposed to do and is a reason, for sure, why he's so successful, so I'm just trying to imitate what he does in the leadership role."

For now, Reynolds is enjoying the moment. He is not worried about more records for the history books or how he might be regarded in the annals of college football. Navy already accomplished one season goal by beating Air Force. The Midshipmen are focused on an AAC championship and, of course, beating Army.

Reynolds will lead that charge.

"He's the best quarterback we've had since I got here," Niumatalolo said.

Issue 214: October 2015